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Planning & Budget: Technology

Council on Information Technology Meeting Notes

November 30, 2001

Website for Prospective Students

Joe Douglas, Tom Luljak and Leslie Schulz are on the Web Steering Committee that is responsible for the overall campus web site. The current web site of the Department of Enrollment Services (see http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/DES/) has information for prospective students, but it is not an obvious web destination. Since the web is increasingly used as a recruiting tool, the committee has the goal of creating a new site for prospective students that is attractive and logical, possibly employing a portal. The costs will be manageable because a number of units are interested in participating and the site could replace some current paper publications. The goal is not to take over existing web sites, but to work the sites into a cohesive system.

The new site will include a virtual tour.  John Grozik and Michael Hostad, who is in the process of becoming the campus webmaster, demonstrated the technology for creating a virtual tour. The tour could link from a campus map, to a particular campus location, to 360 degree views of the campus environs. Within the 360 degree pictures there could be labels, sound narration and links to other URLs that give further information. A virtual tour could also be distributed to prospective students on CDs included in the packets they receive. The CDs could be in a custom shape, such as the head of the Panther. The CDs could also link a home computer to the campus web site. The tour could be run in an automatic mode, or driven interactively by the student.

Items that are frequently changed would be maintained by the units responsible for the information. Major design changes would come through Michael Hostad's group within I&MT. It was suggested that the web site and the virtual tour should show the campus in all four seasons and highlight Milwaukee itself, especially its festivals.

Mary Jo Aman confirmed that Student and Multicultural Affairs is willing to participate in the effort.

The IT Review

Joe Douglas distributed the results of a UTR and ITPC opinion poll that was based upon the conclusions and recommendations of Blackwell's final report (see http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/Acad_Aff/ITReview/UWMFinalReport.pdf). The resulting eleven categories, and their relative importance can be summarized and ranked as follows:

  1. Communication Of top importance is improving campus communications regarding IT issues, and especially for I&MT to listen to it's customers.
  2. Standards Baseline hardware and software standards should be defined, along with a plan for technical support.
  3. Distance Learning Although not explicitly within the purview of the IT Review, the vision for distance learning should be clarified along with the strategies to achieve it.
  4. Customer Service I&MT should adopt a customer service attitude and strategy that is centered around a responsive Help Desk.
  5. Accessibility Technical support for the Student Accessibility Center should be clarified.>
  6. Instructional Technology Faculty should be given support to innovate with technology in both classroom-based and distance learning venues.
  7. Computer Labs Students should be given greater access to computer labs that have well maintained hardware and well trained staff.
  8. Planning The four IT committees should develop a long term IT strategic vision and plan.
  9. Roles The roles of the CIO and the other IT leaders and providers should be clearly defined.
  10. Metrics Performance metrics should be defined for IT services and assessments should be conducted.
  11. Networking/Modems  Access to the campus network and modem pool is not problematic.

Campus IT Communication Plan

A web site is being created for the CIO office as an IT clearing house for plans, reports, minutes, links to external sources, best practices, guidelines and links to unit IT plans.

In addition, Dean Kelly suggested a weekly email update composed of thumbnail reports on the order of Edupage (see http://www.educause.edu/pub/edupage/edupage.html), with links to further information. The Provost suggested that such an update could come out of the Chancellor's office and contain also contain non-IT items that are vetted by the Division of University Relations and Communications. Those who don't want to read it can delete it.

The Provost also suggested a mechanism for asking each student perhaps five random questions out of a bank of 100 when they register online. At his suggestion, I&MT is also researching a mechanism to conduct an annual online customer satisfaction survey of all campus service units.

Proposal for an IT Faculty Ombudsman

Joe Douglas put forward a proposal for an IT Faculty Ombudsman position. He suggested that a faculty member on a two semester sabbatical could report out of the CIO office as an ombudsman for those faculty who want to air any technology issue on campus, not just within I&MT. Leslie Schulz thought the sabbatical mechanism would be a useful alternative for someone who wants a time to catch up on technology. However some committee members suggested the alternative of a part time buyout.

The Provost felt an ombudsman program would provide an excellent opportunity for problem centered learning. He also felt that it was more important that an ombudsman have a reputation for being fair and open, and that they posses good people and mediation skills, rather than having a decidedly technical background.

Dean Kelly agreed with the principle and the purpose of the program, but proposed that the ombudsman position should not turn over annually, so that a person should could gain and employ expertise over time.  Joe Douglas would prefer to have more people, and their units, exposed to the experience. Allen Bell commented that if the person served too long they would be seen as an administrator rather than a representative of the faculty.

The committee approved the ombudsman concept but had questions about the implementation, e.g., full time person(s) versus part time person(s), a fixed schedule versus a rotating schedule, a sabbatical versus a buyout. The Provost asked Allen Bell to bring the issue to the ITPC for recommendations regarding the proposal and its implementation.

Remote Access

Joe Douglas distributed modem pool usage statistics (see http://www.uwm.edu/IMT/ClientServices/Modemstats/). The modem pool has not been taxed in a number of months. There are no busy signals. It appears that over time the usage of the modem pool is going down because:

  • it is not running at the fastest nominal speed available in the marketplace
  • students come to campus with other ISP services already established

The Provost noted that last year there was a controversy regarding whether 56Kbps service really worked at 56Kbps. The question is whether it is reasonable to invest the necessary funds to upgrade the modem pool to a nominal 56Kbps for the potential return. Allen Bell reported that the new ITPC has not yet discussed the issue, so perhaps it's not as pressing as it once was.

Although the pool modem pool equipment is slowly failing, the usage is declining and alternatives with broadband providers are also being pursued.

A fact sheet will be distributed that points out that there are no busy signals, that 56Kbps service does not usually run at 56Kbps, and there are other more pressing issues that need funding.

Charging for Printing

Campus units are testing a hardware and software setup that manages print queues in labs, the Library, schools and colleges. Unfunded printing costs, mostly the result of student activity, are approaching a quarter of a million dollars annually. Printing and Electronic Reserve have become replacements for the course packs that students used to purchase. It is one of the few expendable resources that is almost completely under the control of the consumer.

A pilot project that has implemented queuing without any charges has resulted in a 25 to 30 percent reduction in wasted print, i.e., reprinting an document after each minor correction. The goal is to create a system that all units could use. A few units have already started charging using their own mechanisms.

Mary Jo Aman suggested that students be given prepaid cards for an amount of printing when they register. Joe Douglas reported that units can do that already if they wish, although many students are not uniquely associated with one unit. Allen Bell suggested that printing be given to students as a form of financial aid.

Web Compliance Issues

The Web Steering Committee is asking whether it would be desirable to use the design templates at deeper levels than just the top web pages of each unit, particularly the units that are involved in the marketing of the university as a whole. The committee concurred wholeheartedly, although Allen Bell noted the need for resources if deeper compliance is expected, and hence more web pages need to be rewritten.

The committee also supports the policy that UWM web pages must be hosted on UWM servers so that there is a measure of control if problems occur.

ITPC meeting with the Provost

The Provost had a profitable meeting with the Information Technology Policy Committee (ITPC) on November 29th. Details will be published in the minutes of the ITPC (see http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/SecU/itpc/minutes.html).

Campus Solution Center Metrics

Handouts of gross Campus Solution Center call volume statistics since January 2001 were distributed. Greater detail will be forthcoming as the reporting system is refined.

USA PATRIOT Act

Joe Douglas distributed a short summary of some of the provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act (see http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/hr3162.htm). It has implications on the provision of information about students and the Internet usage faculty, staff and students to federal agencies. A fact sheet will be composed and distributed.

GUA

Dean Kelly distributed handouts on the current status of the Global University Alliance (GUA).